Asprey in administration

"Historical mismanagement” combined with operating licence "issues", Brexit and rising fuel prices led to Aspray Transport's demise, according to a letter sent by the firm's owners to its employees. 

The company, which was the delivery arm of Aspray Group, ceased trading last week, six months after the group was acquired by Bushell Investment Group, which also owns BIG Property Finance, a short term loans specialist.

The leaked letter, sent to Aspray Transport's 449 employees and seen by, attributes the firm’s downfall to trading difficulties caused by “historical mismanagement”, Brexit, rising fuel prices and “issues experienced with the company’s Goods Vehicle Operating Licence.”

The letter also informs employees that, of the firm's 449 staff, a “few” would be kept on to assist with the wind-down with the rest being made redundant. It pledges all staff will be paid "in full."

One former employee refuted the claims of mismanagement this week. He told "Ugly freight is an extremely difficult sector and pricing issues were a problem for the company but it was not mismanaged."

Describing the management style of founder Pat Laight and his son and former MD Stuart Laight as "very, very strong", he added: "They worked very hard and were very committed to the point where they put the business - and the welfare of the people they employed - before everything, including themselves."

He also described the company's management as being "obsessive" about operating licence compliance.

According to the government's vehicle O-licence service, Aspray Group currently holds six valid operator licences covering 191 trucks and 172 trailers. Owner Bushell Investment Group holds no operating licences.

A statement announcing the firm’s administration last week, issued by joint administrator Benjamin Wiles of  Duff and Phelps, said Aspray Transport had faced an "increasingly difficult" trading position "in the past few months."

Wiles added: "It has already been reported that increasing fuel costs, combined with adverse trading conditions as a result of the uncertainty linked to Brexit, have led to an unsustainable decline in business.”

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Lee Bushell, chief executive of Bushell Investment Group, added: “We have been working hard to try and find a solution to secure the future of the business. This has included initiating a CVA process in April as well as seeking new investment and potential partners. But we were unsuccessful given the broader economic challenges in the market.”

When Bushell Investment Group bought Aspray Group in March, Bushell stated that the acquisition would "ensure this business reaches its full potential".

The following month Aspray Transport was put into a CVA, which Bushell Investment Group said would address “ a number of legacy issues” and put the firm in “a strong financial position going forward”.

The decision to place the company in a CVA was opposed by Aspray Group founder Pat Laight who withdrew his support and name, which he had lent the group to ensure continuity following the sale.

Laight launched Aspray in December 1982 with two trucks. At the time of its sale in March this year Aspray Group employed 600 people, and had 13 depots including its headquarters at its 16-acre freehold site in Willenhall, Walsall.

It consisted of three divisions: Aspray24 (registered as Aspray Transport at Companies House), Aspray Logistics and Aspray International, which was previously owned by holding company Nationworld.

Aspray Logistics and Aspray International, the warehousing and logistics part of the business, are not affected by the administration process.